By Doug Drowley | Special to The Seattle Times
Bellevue believes being themselves could be special
The foundation for the expectations that now surround the Bellevue boys swim team were laid over the last two years. With the arrival of coach Andy Hay, now in his third season with the Wolverines, the program has solidified.
“One year, it took a while to find a coach even when the season had started,” said Michael Stanchi, one of Bellevue’s four team captains. “I think that’s part of it, ever since we got a steady coach. Every year we’re getting better.”
Bellevue has had swimming success in the past. The Wolverines even finished second at the 3A meet to Mercer Island in 2010. But none of the current Bellevue swimmers were a part of that team.
A year ago, the Wolverines finished third behind Lakeside and Mercer Island.
Those two teams have dominated 3A since 2006.
The Islanders won every title from 2006 to 2011. Lakeside, after losing huge at districts each of the past two seasons to Mercer Island, have recovered to swipe the state title in 2012 and 2013.
Bellevue believes it may have the goods this winter, though.
“We’re making a run,” said Hay, who despite having trouble containing his excitement over this season’s squad, won’t predict a state title. “I knew it would be a special year. I didn’t know it would be this special.”
Just how special remains to be seen. But these Wolverines are committed.
Bellevue practices constantly. Hay said his team, almost without fail, shows up to extra, optional weekend workouts. And team members engage each other out of the pool, too, with team bonding activities.
They played a team football game on Thanksgiving. They played a basketball tournament on New Year’s Day.
“You put a bunch of swimmers on a basketball court and it’s probably the worst thing you’d ever want to see,” Stanchi said. “But those days, we kind of get a break from the pool, and get to know our teammates in another way.”
Quite simply, this is who these Wolverines are.
Most of the Bellevue team participated a year ago, when the Wolverines sent 16 swimmers to the state meet (including alternates) and scored points in every event but diving to accomplish their third-place state finish.
Ask them, and they believe that number will rise when the state meet rolls around on February 21 and 22.
“I’m knocking on wood right now,” Hay said. “But we’re looking great. I’m completely blessed. I just want to make sure I’m a good custodian of this year.”
Bellevue certainly isn’t counting its chickens here. Mercer Island and Lakeside remain the premier competition in 3A. And the Wolverines know it.
“Mercer Island and Lakeside are definitely our biggest competitors,” said Chandler Erisman, another of the captains. “But I think we’ve got it in us. If we just push ourselves, go as hard as we can, that will be the difference. We’re all so passionate about swimming. What we have to do is be ourselves.”
Look no further than senior captain Joseph Walsh to confirm that being themselves has gotten these Wolverines into this position.
Walsh is not the vocal leader. He was the captain nominated into the role by his coach – what the team calls the “Sister Captain,” taking a cue from a show on TLC called “Sister Wives,” Hay said.
“He’s really quiet,” Hay said. “He’s not rallying the team with extravagant speeches. But he earned it. He comes to everything. He just walks the walk.”
And Walsh, like the rest of his teammates, sees the ultimate goal sitting out there – the chance to end the Mercer Island/Lakeside dominance.
“We’ve had high post-season aspirations since the beginning of the season,” Walsh said. “We’re in a position to do something special.”
- The News Tribune recently did a nice piece on potential 2A favorite Steilacoom, focused on brothers Ben and James Scott.
- Mercer Island’s 4×100 relay team, the defending 3A champions, already are dropping time in the event. The Islanders recently posted a 3:10. Mercer Island won the state meet race in 3:09.57 last February.
Who’s going where?
Army – Michael Stanchi, Bellevue
Birmingham Southern – Caleb Riggs, Peninsula
Georgia Tech – Brian Woodbury, Curtis
Harvard – Edward Kim, Eastlake
Minnesota – Chase Bublitz, Kentridge
Tufts – Morgan Ciliv, Bellevue
Utah – Benjamin Scott, Steilacoom
Wisconsin – Todd McCarthy, Bellevue
Boise State – Monica Bottelberghe, Columbia River; Emma Chard, Foss
Bowdoin – Mariah Rawding, White Salmon
Cal Poly SLO – Caitlin Cox, Mercer Island; Sage Speak, Inglemoor
Michigan – Carolyn McCann, Gig Harbor
New Mexico – Morgan Ginnis, Arlington
Northwestern – Anna Keane, Meadowdale
Texas A&M – Lisa Bratton, Richland
USC – Hannah Weiss, Mercer Island (did not swim for school)
Utah – Shayla Archer, Bainbridge; Megan Kawaguchi, Mount Rainier
WSU – Hannah Bruggman, Wenatchee
Wheaton College (Ill.) – Kayla Roberson, Inglemoor
Yale – Heidi VanderWel, Monroe
Know a swimmer who has committed to a college? Email Doug Drowley at email@example.com.